Why Design Isn’t Just About How Work Looks

As Indiespring has grown up over the past 5 years we have become more and more involved with the design of the things we build. In our early days we concentrated on the building and coding of countless mobile apps and websites, plying our trade as true geeks, happiest in a dimly lit room, with a coding environment and a can of red bull to keep us company as we focussed upon our founding principles of solid engineering.

 

As we’ve grown I’ve seen us handling more and more of the design and user experience of our projects. We’re not just doing the doing, but doing the thinking too. One of our constant challenges is to help customers understand the value In properly designing products.

 

It is summarised best by the following well known quotation from Steve Jobs:

 

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

 

Steve Jobs (emphasis mine)

 

When people think of web design, or mobile app design, they immediately think of how the product looks. What branding guidelines need to be adhered to, what colour schemes should be used, where will we get the imagery from? Often we’re asked to do some “quick designs” as part of a proposal to try and give our potential client an idea of our abilities. They’re almost always judging how the site looks because a flat image can’t possibly tell you much about how the site will work.

 

Aesthetics are just a part of design. The truth is, it is very easy to make a site look good. We work with many talented artists and designers who are on trend with modern aesthetic standards. They can take an existing site and make it visually appealing. Often this amounts to polishing the proverbial excrement. There’s no lasting value delivered here bar an initial positive impression.

 

That’s a point worth emphasizing. Aesthetics are important – they deliver an immediate, important first impression that your digital product is professional. Users immediately judge the experience based on that first impression, so it had better be good. What aesthetics can’t disguise is a poor user experience – that is, how the product works.

 

A positive user experience is even more important – it makes your users love your product and keeps them on-board. User’s mid and long term impressions of an application or website are far more impacted by how easy it is to use. We have all used software that might look visually unattractive but it just gets the job done quickly & simply. Equally there are many beautiful looking pieces of software that are cumbersome, bloated, slow, un-intuitive and damned frustrating.

 

Aesthetics are the short term draw to pull users in; User Experience is what keeps them around and makes them fall in love.

 

That’s why when we’re designing products we spend about 4x as much time on developing the user experience through wireframes and interactive prototyping that we do on the aesthetics at the end.

 

It’s a quick and easy job to make something look good. It’s a research heavy and iterative job to design something to work well.

Check out Indiespring’s other blog post about making a great user experience amazing here. Finally read about our work here.